Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steve Slater, JetBlue, Flight Attendants, Job Stress, Economics, and a Brown University and UMass Amherst Connection

Having flown on 8 flights recently over 2 weeks in 4 countries, I am glad to be on terra firma.

Needless to say, as any frequent flier, I could not miss the major news story of the "escape" of the Jet Blue flight attendant, Steve Slater, from his landed flight using a chute onto the tarmac of the JFK airport following his "interactions" with a passenger upon landing.

There is an article in USA Today, "JetBlue flight attendant strikes a nerve with stressed workers," which caught my attention since it quotes my former colleague at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst, Dr. Joel Naroff (who owned a home in North Amherst) and who is also a fellow Brown University PhD (in economics, though). Dr. Naroff is now President of his own consulting company.

The USA Today article states that: Slater did what many workers fantasize about and may do with increasing frequency — albeit with less showmanship — once the economy rebounds, with Dr. Naroff stating that: "I don't think we should be surprised that once the economy starts ... picking up, there's a massive relocation of workers who want out as fast as they possibly can."

"That's the warning that I don't think businesses really recognize: You can pull this off now because there isn't really an option, but once there's an option, it's going to be payback time," Naroff says. "You're going to be losing some of your best people."

Dr. Naroff always was articulate (and, as I recall, had a terrific sense of humor). He further states in USA Today: "Clearly, the massive drive to get more productivity and more output out of workers is running into a wall." "We're working too hard, all the blood's out of the stone, and it's now time to look for a new stone."

Also, interestingly, my college room-mate at Brown (for two years we lived together in Diman Hall on the frat quad) and a fellow Applied Mathematics major, after several years in the insurance industry, opted out to become a social director of several cruise lines, only to pursue a career as an international flight attendant and language specialist for United Airlines.

Whenever I fly I make a point of engaging flight attendants in conversation, especially on those long distance flights, that I have had more than my share of lately. This way I get to stand rather than sit for hours and I also learn about their challenging lives and lifestyles.